I've been thinking about preaching today, mostly as a response to being dissatisfied with my own right now. I listened to a recent sermon from a college preaching professor of mine, J.K. Jones who is truly a master at the craft, but even more important than that, a person of integrity and character that you simply know spends a LOT of time in the presence of God.
What I noticed when listening to J.K. was the tone of joy that encompassed the entire thing. What he clearly wasn't trying to do was clear up every nuance, thought, question that people would have, nor was he trying to do the Holy Spirit's work of convicting. He wasn't seeking to be hard hitting, or impact-ful, so to speak. He told the story, drawing out a few implications through personal experience and examples and it was beautifully done. It engaged the emotions in a non-manipulative, but powerful way.
Yesterday, I preached the good news of the new creation and righteous king in Isaiah 11, but I felt like the tone of my sermon was NOT good news of the new creation and righteous king and right after the message was over, I felt regret, and largely felt irresponsible. There was a void in the sermon that was largely induced by the void in my own character and heart. I don't mean this in a dramatic, over-the-top way, but when joy is lacking in the sermon, generally, joy is lacking in the preacher's life. And I regret that deeply. It's not fair to the community. Joyful preaching comes from joyful people. And that's work that God and I have to do together in this next year. Hope should sound like hope!
It's also made me think of some questions for reflection during (or after) the sermon preparation process. Here they are:
Does it encourage imagination and deeper, continued thinking? Or does it shut down conversation and deaden imagination? Does it try to close every door, and answer every objection? Or does it inspire people to take up a thought-journey on their own and with the community?
When it’s over, do people feel like they were kicked in the ass, or feel generally numb? Or do they feel like they have been drawn into a better reality, feeling excited and hopeful about the future?
Is the preaching (tone and content) reinforced by my own character and experience? Or is there a felt-contradiction within myself or others as I speak the words I’ve prepared?
Does it inspire a love and compassion for God and one another? Or does it cause an increased level of guilt and anxiety toward God and one another?
Anyone care to add to these?